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The American Airlines ramp at DFW Airport.

Record fine assessed on American Airlines for tarmac delays

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has fined American Airlines a record $1.6 million for violating rules prohibiting long tarmac delays. This is the highest fine against an airline for violating the tarmac delay rule, and matches the fine against Southwest Airlines in 2015

Under the DOT rules, U.S. airlines operating aircraft with 30 or more passenger seats are prohibited from allowing their domestic flights to remain on the tarmac for more than three hours without giving passengers an opportunity to leave the plane. Exceptions are allowed only for safety, security, or air traffic control-related reasons. The rules further mandate airlines provide adequate food and water, ensure that aircraft toilets are working and, provide medical attention to passengers if needed.

The department’s Aviation Enforcement office found that in 2013 and 2015, American Airlines allowed a number of domestic flights to remain on the tarmac for more than three hours without providing passengers an opportunity to de-plane: 20 flights at Charlotte International Airport on February 16, 2013, six flights at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport on February 27, 2015, and one flight at Shreveport Regional Airport in Louisiana on October 22, 2015.

The delays at Charlotte occurred during a snowstorm which the airline and its regional partners failed to properly assess and prepare for. At Dallas-Fort Worth, heavy snow and rain were the cause, and the delay at Shreveport was at least partially due to the carrier’s mismanagement of personnel and resources.

One can only hope that the DGCA and Ministry of Civil Aviation in India uses this as inspiration to truly protect passengers’ rights.

About Devesh Agarwal

A electronics and automotive product management, marketing and branding expert, he was awarded a silver medal at the Lockheed Martin innovation competition 2010. He is ranked 6th on Mashable's list of aviation pros on Twitter and in addition to Bangalore Aviation, he has contributed to leading publications like Aviation Week, Conde Nast Traveller India, The Economic Times, and The Mint (a Wall Street Journal content partner). He remains a frequent flier and shares the good, the bad, and the ugly about the Indian aviation industry without fear or favour.

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